The dystopian adventure Norco has emerged as a surprise indie hit. The point-and-click game, which was developed by Geography of Robots and published by Raw Fury, has a retro feel reminiscent of video games from the 1990s. The game has similarities with other point-and-click adventures such as Kentucky Route Zero and Disco Elysium.
A hometown dystopia
The game is set in the real-life oil refinery town of Norco, Louisiana, named after the New Orleans Refining Company (NORCO). The developer of Norco, who goes by the pseudonym Yuts to ensure a division between his real life and the game world he has created, brought to life his own experiences of growing up in Norco. He describes the Shell oil refinery as “this giant, fire-breathing dragon that exists in your backyard.”
Although the developer does not consider Norco to be dystopian, he accepts that assigning the genre of a game is not the prerogative of the creator. Instead, he recognizes that the designation of the game is ultimately out of his hands with the game widely accepted as being firmly entrenched in the apocalyptic genre.
Dystopian worlds in the entertainment industry
Nightmarish worlds have been widely depicted in the entertainment industry for many decades. Dystopian novels include Aldous Huxley’s 1932 work “Brave New World” and more recently American author Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series of novels became a popular movie franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence.
The popularity of these mysterious and futuristic worlds with dark optics and moody music means they are ideally suited to areas of the entertainment sector beyond movies, video games, and literature. In the iGaming industry online slots such as Retro Rush, with its futuristic cyber city setting, have been able to capitalize on the popularity of dystopian worlds. As has The Walking Dead, the officially branded slot of the hugely successful zombie apocalypse TV show starring Andrew Lincoln, which also inspired a video game series. These hellish worlds give game designers endless scope to create their own version of future societies with fascinating robotic and horrific characters who inhabit these worlds.
The creative opportunities presented by the genre are exemplified by the video game The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners – Chapter 2: Retribution. The Walking Dead spinoff, developed by Skydance Interactive and Skybound Entertainment, gives players the chance to explore the Walking Dead world as part of a virtual reality first-person shooter.
The Norco video game won the inaugural Tribeca Games Award in 2021 and was nominated for two industry awards in 2022, in the category Best Storytelling in the Golden Joystick Awards and Best Debut Indie Game in The Game Awards 2022. The dystopian video game was also listed among the best video games of 2022 by The New Yorker and named one of the indie game gems of last year by The Washington Post.
It would be no surprise to see Norco scoop further awards this year, with the New York Game Awards and the 26th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards scheduled for February 2023. The game highlights the longevity and creative license afforded by the dystopian genre.